In comparison with other major conflicts not many movies have been made about the Spanish Civil War. There are a number of reasons for this. In Britain, the Second World War occupied filmmakers during and after the conflict while in Hollywood there was a great fear amongst the artistic community that they would be blacklisted, as indeed many were, if they produced movies that supported left of centre views.
Against this backdrop, in 1945 Warner Brothers produced Confidential Agent, a movie based on a novel by Graham Greene.
Confidential Agent is a spy movie starring Charles Boyer, Lauren Bacall (in an early film role), George Coulouris and Peter Lorre.
During the Spanish Civil War, Luis Denard (Charles Boyer), a former concert pianist and composer, travels to Britain on behalf of the Spanish government. His mission is to secure a coal contract. Along the way fascist agents try to murder him.
Although the movie contains suspense and action moments it is mainly a philosophical piece. One scene in particular was clearly staged to make a point – Luis Denard pleads with coal miners to support him and they refuse. In reality, British coal miners were the biggest supporters of the Spanish government and their fellow coal miners in Spain.
The movie was made after the Spanish Civil War with the knowledge of what followed – the Second World War – and certain set pieces reflect this.
There is a noir feel to the picture, but it does end on an optimistic note with the closing line, “One day I know we must win.”
Blockade. Not a classic, but a movie with its heart in the right place.
Filmed in 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, Blockade tells us a lot about the attitudes of the time. For example, because of a fear of blacklisting, the movie does not indicate which side the main characters are on, although if you have any knowledge of the Spanish Civil War it is obvious they are supporting the loyalists.
Basically a romantic spy story, Blockade moves along at a good pace and the story is engaging. With the support characters, the comic relief and villains are similar to the characters Hollywood loved to portray in medieval movies, for example, Robin Hood, while some of the cinematography is reminiscent of Spaghetti Westerns with its close-ups of faces lined with character.
Scenes and speeches throughout the movie indicate that the filmmakers had one eye on the forthcoming Second World War while Henry Fonda’s closing speech underlines that Blockade is an anti-war film.
Blockade is of its time, but it’s a good story and the movie is well worth watching.